Oh! What a Pavlova

Oh! What a Pavlova, Isabella May’s debut novel is available to pre-order now via Amazon worldwide. Click on the universal link to take you to your country’s Amazon page to buy your copy: myBook.to/pavlova

Here’s the blurb:

Kate Clothier is leading a double life; a successful jet-setting businesswoman to the outside world, but behind closed doors life with Daniel and his volcanic temper is anything but rosy.

Some days – heck, make that EVERY day – cake is her only salvation.

Slowly but surely, the cities she visits – and the men she meets – help her to realise there IS a better future.

The ley lines of Glastonbury are certainly doing their best to impart their mystical wisdom…

But will she escape before it’s too late?

And here’s a sneaky peak of the Prologue and Chapter One to whet your appetite:

 

PROLOGUE

The Noughties: the decade from 2000-2009

A time when publishing contracts were signed at the book fair table; with a wink, an x-ray underwear scan all too often thrown in for good measure, and a sip of pretend champagne from a polystyrene cup. All hail those awesome, unfathomable Chinese print prices.

A time when Jamie Oliver still served up sugar and kept his views on breastfeeding to himself, Mary Berry’s call to a bunting-strung, cupcake-fringed tent in a field was but a dot on the horizon – and we were all still madly in love with Nigella.

A time when women (and men) were being physically and emotionally battered… behind closed doors.

And the ley lines of Glastonbury continued to offer their timeless mystical wisdom, if only Kate Clothier was listening.

 

Chapter One

My infidelities had been set in motion some time ago, in Lyon during my Uni gap year, a mere three years into my relationship with Daniel.

I’d always dismissed my very brief fling with Pierre, the engineering postgraduate, as nothing more than getting things out of my system before settling down to married life. It colluded with the childishly sketched pictures of ‘our future country cottage’ that Daniel would send me, along with the lovesick letters which arrived in forlorn bundles begging me to always stay with him, have his children, cats and dogs. Even then it scared me sideways, the lengths to which he had water-coloured my life without as much as a consultation.

One Saturday I was whisked off to a ball with another English student friend. Both of us were stranded as teachers in a further education centre; a grey concrete jungle of nothingness, on the outskirts of the city. A mutual acquaintance just happened to be the not-much-older-big-sister of one of the engineering postgrads at Lyon University, securing us some much swooned over tickets.

The engineering ball was quite the grandest event I had been to at the time. Swarms of hot-blooded French men outnumbered the women four-to-one on the dance floor. The Teenage Wedding song from Pulp Fiction blared out and Pierre made his move: Quite from nowhere, quite a surprise, quite mmm. I played Ice Maiden admirably for a couple of verses.

“Je ne peux pas te baiser, j’ai un copain,” I protested feebly every time he dived in for an intoxicating kiss.

Before long, I yielded to his charm; the heady scent of his expensive aftershave helping things along. As the night drew to a close and I discovered the meaning of a real French kiss, he inscribed his phone number the length of my inner arm in pillar box red Chanel lipstick, blunting my favourite make-up as he swept back his long model locks to concentrate. I felt quite the tarte.

But I was too stunned by my actions to care about Daniel, except for a brief spell a couple of weeks down the line when he had caught the Eurostar over to visit. He was a shadow of his former self, having eaten barely a thing since I’d left. Then the guilt caved in. Then I felt utterly wretched for cheating. I worried myself sick when he left, that the next time we ‘met’ would be at his funeral. It was enough to make me abandon my studies and the silly year away. What was I doing to him? It was my selfishness and insistence on completing my language degree that had driven him to the brink of anorexia. Remembering the words his mother uttered just weeks before my departure hadn’t exactly eased my complex:

“But you’re not really going to go away and leave him, are you Kate? I mean, you’ll jack Uni in and not abandon him on his own like this for a year, won’t you?”

“Appellez-moi,” Pierre ordered.

“Just you try to stop me from calling you,” I said, hardly believing my luck.

I managed to wait a whole twelve hours, unable to think of anything else but that kiss and the fire it had unleashed in areas it shouldn’t have. Then I called him, French script in hand, in case I needed a prompt and my throat froze over in pre-date silence.

Encounter numero deux was outside Lyon’s Opera House, where romantic took on a whole new dimension. Dressed in my Little Black Dress, I searched for him up and down, around and around the grand steps; a wanton mademoiselle struggling to catch her breath as a vision of floppy golden-haired loveliness appeared in the distance. In his long black designer coat, he was other-worldly. And I wondered just how many forbidden trysts had there been on those very same steps, beneath the watchful gaze of a French October sunset?

We walked side by side, sneaking furtive glances at one another, trying to hide our beaming smiles. I desperately wanted him to put his arm around me, but it was too early. Besides, this was no date as such. He’d simply invited me over to his apartment. Obviously I’d taken a small overnight bag with me anyway – just in case.

When we finally arrived, after striding through some ridiculously posh parts, I felt like a glamorous Screen Siren, transported back to the heyday of Hollywood. The apartment belonged to a class one needed to be born into.  As for the bathroom, I’d never seen anywhere as stocked from floor to ceiling with expensive French aftershaves. No wonder the boy smelt good.

We spent a wonderful evening chatting, laughing, kissing, watching films. He had the most uncannily identical music collection. Although Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ raging across the sound system upon the flick of a hidden high-tech switch, was hardly the most appropriate of songs when things were getting raunchy, even if I adored Tom York’s melancholic warble.

Something happened after the fading of that song.

It was then that I realised I had my arms around a croque-en-bouche, a rich tower of haute couture, the height of which was simply too majestic for a girl like me to scale. And it was as if my thoughts cast an immediate and irreversible spell on him too, reminding him that I – and not Radiohead’s lead singer – ‘didn’t belong here’.

We finally retreated to the bedroom and he drifted off to sleep. I tried and tried, somewhat embarrassingly in retrospect, to weld myself into him, hoping to resurrect his libido, but all I got was a frustrating:

“Desolée, je suis bloqué…” followed by “Il faut que je t’explique quelquechose… en fait, j’ai une copine. Elle s’appelle Chantelle.”

So he couldn’t perform, because it had just dawned on him that actually, he had a girlfriend. And why did he have to say her name? I didn’t care if she was called Pascal and wore a sailor’s hat. Now I would cast scorn upon every future Chantelle I encountered.

“Oh,” I replied, the bottom falling out of my world, “Oh.”

But there was more to come. In fact, the whole thing was a farce. He’d also lied to me about the apartment being his: it was his parents’; they were simply in Paris for the weekend, so he wanted to feel like un homme, inviting a young English Rose over for a bit of romance. Was there anything about him that was real? I began to doubt he was even a student of engineering. The worst thing of all though was I’d been beached there like a whale until the buses were up and running again. It must have been two or three in the morning. And I definitely didn’t have the fare for a taxi.

Somehow I slept remarkably well. It’s not as if things could have got worse or there was any more of my dignity to lose.

Next morning I woke to an empty bed. What a relief to be able to slink off to the bathroom to reapply My Face before he spotted me. I could hear him already pottering about in some other part of his folks’ lavish quarters.

“They must be absolutely minted,” I said to my reflection, avoiding my disappointed eyes in the mirror by taking in the colossal tower of designer aftershaves and balms once again.

This was proper perfume; none of the cheap and cheerful stuff that I was used to. I cunningly opened a bottle, dabbing a hint on my wrists, as well as the pulse points of my neck – not that he’d be kissing me there anymore.

Just what had caused this sudden turnaround in his predilection for me? Surely Radiohead alone couldn’t be held accountable? And then I remembered – the effects of the wine no longer clouding events; he had undressed me, taken in the contours of my body, and pulled away.

So I wasn’t stick thin like his waif of a girlfriend (I assumed Chantelle was one of those enviable little things sporting a wasp’s waist, anyway – Lyon, and the Rhône and Saône’s banks, were overflowing with them), but I certainly didn’t have a spare tyre either. Had that honestly been the reason he’d suddenly turned himself off? Or was it just that everything seemed safe, a bit of fumbling around, until that was; we’d moved into the dormitoire? Whatever the reason, I didn’t much care to think about it. He’d dented my pride and all I wanted to do was get myself out of there as soon as possible, back to my little sardine tin of a room to wallow under the duvet in self-pity and despondency, with a bucket load of chocolate and tea on tap.

I chanced to inspect myself a little longer in the mirror. Undeniably, I was a little jaded, but I still looked kind of cute.

Yet he hardly looked my way when I entered the kitchen, too busy percolating his gourmet coffee.

“T’as dormé bien?” he said, obviously feeling the need to pierce the air with some kind of sound other than that of the beans doing their thing.

I told him I had slept well, thank you very much.

“Tu veux quelquechose a manger, du café?”  

I couldn’t think of anything worse than eating in front of him. But when he handed me a Mars bar, I let appearances slide. Clearly that was his expectation of me, after all. And so the buxom English Rose chomped her way through its entirety, hastily swigged at her far too strong coffee and politely bade Pierre farewell – sans bisou – he’d had quite enough of those in the night.

The whole debacle was like taking five giant leaps forward and seven even larger ones back. The insignificant yet significant fling with Pierre shattered my confidence into mosaic-sized pieces. He gave me that first tantalising glimpse of a life – and a love – cut off from my puppeteer, and then he cruelly locked the door very firmly, threw away the key and rendered me hostage once more. I’d been depicted as fat and wholly un-beddable. I’d been deceived. And I’d developed a venomous hatred of svelte French women, scowling at them all on my forays in and around Lyon; that one of them might be her, the one who could turn him on.